How to decommission a data centre

0 Posted by - 22nd September 2019 - Technology

Credit: Dreamstime

About the only thing harder than building a data centre is dismantling one, because the potential for disruption of business is much greater when shutting down a data centre than constructing one.

The recent decommissioning of the Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in America reveals just how complicated the process can be.

More than 40 people were involved with the project, including staff from ORNL, supercomputer manufacturer Cray, and external subcontractors. Electricians were required to safely shut down the nine megawatt-capacity system, and Cray staff was on hand to disassemble and recycle Titan’s electronics and its metal components and cabinets.

A separate crew handled the cooling system. In the end, 350 tons of equipment and 10,800 pounds of refrigerant were removed from the site.

While most enterprise IT pros aren’t likely to face decommissioning a computer the size of Titan, it is likely they’ll be involved with dismantling smaller-scale data centres given the trend for companies to move away from on-premises data centres.

The pace of data centre closure is going to accelerate over next three or four years, according to Rick Villars, research vice president, data centre and cloud, at IDC.

“Every company we’ve spoken to is planning to close 10 per cent to 50 per cent of their data centres over the next four years, and in some cases even 100 per cent. No matter who you talk to, they absolutely have on the agenda they want to close data centres,” Villars says.

Successfully retiring a data centre requires navigating many steps. Here’s how to get started.

Inventory data-centre assets

The first step is a complete inventory. However, given the preponderance of zombie servers in IT environments, it’s clear that a good number of IT departments don’t have a handle on data centre asset management.

“They need to know what they have. That’s the most basic. What equipment do you have? What apps live on what device? And what data lives on each device?” says Ralph Schwarzbach, who worked as a security and decommissioning expert with Verisign and Symantec before retiring.

All that information should be in a configuration management database (CMDB), which serves as a repository for configuration data pertaining to physical and virtual IT assets.

A CMDB “is a popular tool, but having the tool and processes in place to maintain data accuracy are two distinct things,” Schwarzbach says.

A CMDB is a necessity for asset inventory, but “any good CMDB is only as good as the data you put in it,” says Al DeRose, a senior IT director responsible for infrastructure design, implementation and management at a large media firm.

“If your asset management department is very good at entering data, your CMDB is great. [In] my experience, smaller companies will do a better job of assets. Larger companies, because of the breadth of their space, aren’t so good at knowing what their assets are, but they are getting better.”

Map dependences among data centre resources

Preparation also includes mapping out dependencies in the data centre. The older a data centre is, the more dependencies you are likely to find.

It’s important to segment what’s in the data centre so that you can move things in orderly phases and limit the risk of something going wrong, says Andrew Wertkin, chief strategy officer with BlueCat Networks, a networking connectivity provider that helps companies migrate to the cloud.

“Ask how can I break this into phases that are independent – meaning ‘I can’t move that app front-end because it depends on this database,’” Wertkin says.

The WAN is a good example. Connection points are often optimised, so when you start to disassemble it, you need to know who is getting what in terms of connections and optimised services so you don’t create SLA issues when you break the connection.

Changing the IP addresses of well-known servers, even temporarily, also creates connection problems. The solution is to do it in steps, not all at once.

Questions to ask decomissioning providers

Given the complexities and manpower needs of decommissioning a data center, it’s important to hire a professional who specialises in it.

Experience and track record are everything when it comes to selecting a vendor, says Mike Satter, vice president at OceanOceanTechech, which provides data centre decommissioning and IT asset disposition services.

read more at by Andy Patrizio